With only 16 games left on the Stockton Heat schedule, the battle for a Calder Cup playoff spot is tight. As of this writing, the Heat are in third place in the Pacific division with 65 points. Tucson leads with 69 points while Colorado sits in second place at 66. Ontario is a point behind the Heat in fourth and San Diego is a point out of the playoff picture at 63. Only the top four teams in the division qualify and there is no wild card in the AHL.
Since the start of Barbara Walters’ favorite year (“This is 20/20”), the Heat have gone 10-10-2, a far cry from the .675 winning percentage clip in 2019. Stockton needs to return to that .600 or better winning percentage to qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs. The Heat are 13-9-3-1 at home while compiling a road record of 16-7-1-2. The remaining schedule is evenly split with eight road games and eight at home, including a four-game road trip against Ontario (two games), a stop in San Diego, and a game in Bakersfield on their way home to Stockton. They do not leave the state of California for the remainder of the regular season.
Stockton is coming off a winless weekend, dropping a lethargic 3-2 decision to San Diego last Friday and being blanked by Iowa and the AHL’s Goaltender of the month the next night. Now it’s time to buckle down and start to focus on the task at hand: a playoff spot.
An 11-game March starts out with a home-and home with Bakersfield. The Heat play six times at home and five game on the road during the month of me lucky charms. A 17-point month, with ten points at home and seven on the road should be the goal. The two home games against Colorado are vital to securing a playoff spot.
Going into the final five games in April with 82 points should lock up a playoff spot, since virtually every game is a four-point playoff positioning game. But with every game having a playoff feel to it, every point is valuable and 85 points may not be enough to secure a coveted playoff spot.
While callups and injuries contribute to the .500 start to the new year, other teams like Colorado, San Diego, and Ontario have caught fire. The trade of Brandon Davidson also hurts, as he brought a sense of calm and experience to the back end. The return of Buddy Robinson and Alexander Yelesin did not help last weekend, but hopefully another week of practice helps the team to gel and get back to playing solid hockey.
Go Heat Go!